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Classroom management questions.
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Non Sequitur



Joined: 23 May 2010
Posts: 2478
Location: China

PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I teach very different stuff in the 2nd half of my classes, I find the break useful as a marker for the transition.
The building-wide bell at 45 mins is a goal to be reached and I think my students apply themselves better knowing the agony will be over.
My first half is dialogue work from a less than riveting text. The school has a big attachment to that book and I must use it. However, it does give a chance to assess each student over the same material.
There are operational reasons for omitting breaks in the lesson just before lunch. It is used to stagger arrivals at the dining halls.
I insert the break in these classes and we just finish at the lunch bell.
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lemak



Joined: 19 Nov 2011
Posts: 368

PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

90 plus minutes without a break is too long. Granted I have the attention span of a poodle, but so do most of my students. I can't even watch a movie for longer than 30 minutes without needing to get up and stretch my legs or empty the contents of my bladder.
The rule I was originally taught is that most students have the attention span in minutes that is twice their age in years. A 5 year old can focus on one topic without getting restless for 10 minutes. A 10 year old for 20 minutes etc. When I was in university we *never* had lectures or tutorials that extended beyond 50 minutes without a break. And often even that was pushing it.
I agree the breaks can be a pain in the ass...lose focus, students come back reeking of smoke, can take an additional ten minutes to get them to re-focus, but in my opinion check what the Chinese teachers are doing and act accordingly.
I've studied a couple of other languages (Indonesian, Spanish) in my time, and after about 30~40 minutes I'm generally wishing the Earth would crash into the Sun. And I don't think I'm *that* abnormal. Let them go out and get their nicotine fix, hit on Ling Ling in the next classroom, take a dump etc. They'll definitely appreciate it.
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SledgeCleaver



Joined: 02 Mar 2013
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No offense, but you're making a huge error in running around checking all of the students' work individually. The key to such things is to make students check each other's work. Put them in groups (say, 4 to a group) and have them compare notes, then you can go around to the groups and see if any groups have questions; this will greatly reduce the time that you personally spend, and thus reduce the time the class spends as well.

Here's the process:
1. You play the tape and have them write their answers.
2. They go into their usual groups of 4 (4 is a good number, even if someone is gone they still have 3 people) to check each other's work and correct each other. The groups should be MIXED ABILITY, and this is important. This way the stronger students will check the others' work and no group will be completely lost. This helps the weak students, who get help from the stronger ones, but what a lot of teachers don't realize is that having strong students teach weaker students improves the strong students' skills as well.
3. As they do this, you go around to check and ask the groups questions. You don't have to check everyone every time - just make sure they are checking themselves efficiently. Make sure the groups are organized correctly, ie. mixed ability with 1-2 people in each group who almost always understand the listening, more or less. If you have to reorganize the groups, do so.
4. At the end, if you have time, have at least one group or one student summarize the listening for the rest of the class, which gives them another chance to check their work (if necessary).

I don't teach in China, so culturally there might be issues with this approach and you may have to tweak it. Similarly, if you really don't have enough "strong" students to have one in every group, then you might have to do serious tweaking. But this is theoretically by far the best practice. Remember: "Tell me and I forget, involve me and I remember."
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SledgeCleaver



Joined: 02 Mar 2013
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

btw, I don't mean to resurrect a dead thread. But I'm reading through old posts, just doing my homework on China, and this one really stuck out at me.
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Non Sequitur



Joined: 23 May 2010
Posts: 2478
Location: China

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well my exp is entirely in China and I've never been able to achieve acceptable small group work, so now don't even attempt it.
I'm talking Oral English.
The group may discuss the topic - but it will be in Chinese and the elected spokesperson will be the best English speaker.
Result: One student per group gets better, the other 4 or 5 get nothing.
That's why I make the 2nd 45 mins as unlike the first as I can. I even allow eating in the first 45 mins of the 8am class. We make it an event and the students call it 'Teacher's Breakfast Club'.
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it'snotmyfault



Joined: 14 May 2012
Posts: 527

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Non Sequitur wrote:
The group may discuss the topic - but it will be in Chinese and the elected spokesperson will be the best English speaker.
Result: One student per group gets better, the other 4 or 5 get nothing.

I know the feeling.
I got the students to number themselves in their groups and not tell me.

So at speaking time I'll say...that group number 3...and if the best speaker still stands up.....sorry I meant number 4
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SledgeCleaver



Joined: 02 Mar 2013
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The group may discuss the topic - but it will be in Chinese


You're not trying to get them to speak English per se, you're trying to get them to check each others' work more quickly and effectively than you ever could. It is certainly not ideal that they speak Chinese, but it is also not a big deal if you are avoiding downtime ie. students just sitting around getting bored while you check each person individually. Checking work more quickly allows you to move on to the next thing much more quickly, so you can pack more into your lessons. Also, all the students sitting around bored and doing nothing are not simply not learning, they are probably losing some respect for the teacher as well. At least that's my experience. They don't know what you're supposed to do to make things more efficient or interactive, they're not teachers, but they sense that you're doing something wrong if they spend that much time sitting around. I can just hardly fathom that for every exercise, you are checking dozens of students' work individually. There has to be a better way.

Quote:
the elected spokesperson will be the best English speaker.


In that case, don't call on the group, call on individuals. Or frankly skip that section all together and just move on to the next listening, so long as everyone's work has been more or less checked. If you have powerpoint or transparencies or anything like that, you can also write super-basic answers and put them up for a bit before moving on to the next one, and use that to check instead.
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Denim-Maniac



Joined: 31 Jan 2012
Posts: 1238

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The group may discuss the topic - but it will be in Chinese


Ill also add this may well be specific to your group of students or the institution you work in. Id be very confident using small groups with my students, and they do speak English in these situations.

Mine are adult classes, but on occasion I may also have a university age student or a even a high school age student in my classes. Assuming they have the English ability, they will fall in and communicate in English too. I do see my students a lot more than some of you may do in different teaching environments so I have more chance to teach them how I teach and what I expect from them though. They are almost always a bit resistant to any pair or group work initially but within 2 weeks (thats 10 x 90 min lessons with me), they all do it.

Dont think they cant or wont do what you want ... it may just take time!
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Non Sequitur



Joined: 23 May 2010
Posts: 2478
Location: China

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

it'snotmyfault wrote:
Non Sequitur wrote:
The group may discuss the topic - but it will be in Chinese and the elected spokesperson will be the best English speaker.
Result: One student per group gets better, the other 4 or 5 get nothing.

I know the feeling.
I got the students to number themselves in their groups and not tell me.

So at speaking time I'll say...that group number 3...and if the best speaker still stands up.....sorry I meant number 4


Love it!!
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Non Sequitur



Joined: 23 May 2010
Posts: 2478
Location: China

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sledgecleaver:
'You're not trying to get them to speak English per se'
Actually I am as it's an Oral English class.
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SledgeCleaver



Joined: 02 Mar 2013
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Non Sequitur wrote:
Sledgecleaver:
'You're not trying to get them to speak English per se'
Actually I am as it's an Oral English class.


I was replying to Dirt Guy's question, which isn't to say I'm not speaking generally or that you shouldn't respond, I just mean that while he is checking everyone's work, if the students are speaking at all, they are speaking Chinese anyways. So to say, "they speak Chinese while correcting their work," well, they were speaking Chinese or nothing while you were correcting their work, so it's not any worse than it was, and you're moving the lesson faster, meaning it's a positive gain in sum total. You have to measure "all things being equal." And from that perspective, no, it's not that important that they speak English. Anyways, I think it's a major exaggeration to say none of them will speak English. They might explain something in Chinese, but they will have to read each others' responses in English and correct them in English - even if they speak Chinese 80% of the time, the other 20% I can hardly see how they wouldn't be forced to speak English, assuming they have any skills at all. Then there's the fact that "they all speak Chinese anyways" sounds like a bit of a cop-out. Maybe Chinese students really are that non-confident and intractable, but I somewhat doubt it. It seems to me if you make your expectations clear and repeatedly encourage them to correct each other in English, eventually they will learn and follow, even if it takes weeks or even longer.

On that note, I think a lot of teachers expect instant improvement, and when it doesn't happen they abandon their plans or reforms, imagining them a failure. I myself would say that no classroom experiment can be proven a failure until you've given it a full week or two of constant implementation, even if you have to badger your students a little bit. Even then, if improvement has been shown, then keep on trucking. It takes time to form new habits, or for students to break out of their comfort zone. That doesn't mean it can't or won't happen with patience and consistency. Only rarely is a new teaching or classroom management idea a disaster from the get-go, assuming it was well-thought out in the first place.

There are no absolutes in education and I'm not an old China hand. I'm merely saying, having students correct each others' work in as many situations as possible is nowadays, almost without debate, considered a best practice. The teacher can give some guidance, especially on harder problems or on problems where the students fail. But you have to give your students a chance to correct themselves and correct each other. Avoid lecturing and top-down methods not always, but whenever possible.

As to this thread generally, I'm not trying to lecture anyone or shame them for what they do or the struggles they've had. For all I know Dirt Guy is really good at something that I'm terrible at. It's just I have a reasonable amount of technical teacher training that some ESL teachers don't have, and if someone is doing something that I consider to be against the consensus among highly-trained educators, I'm going to say so. Nobody's perfect and it's nothing personal.
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Non Sequitur



Joined: 23 May 2010
Posts: 2478
Location: China

PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that but in my classes the groups are producing oral English not a written result. Accordingly there is no audit trail that at least some of the group activity was in English.
That being the case I avoid that format.
I get attention to the task that 2 or 3 other students are doing from the set text for the reason that eventually they will be selected.
Certainly that fear factor only holds good while there are a good number still to perform. Once the majority have had their turn - or we're getting near break the attention levels fall away.
This is a good thread, about practical class management.
Gets us away from the perpetual 'Is it OK to teach on a tourist visa' posts. Laughing
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SledgeCleaver



Joined: 02 Mar 2013
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I've been more or less replying to OP. What I'm saying is not always applicable, but I think it's very applicable for when students are supposed to summarize or answer questions about listening passages, which is what he described. However, OP has not made a reappearance since I resurrected the thread, so apparently I'm dispensing all my sage advice to the wind.

Is there a sticky for classroom management and teaching techniques? If not, there should be.
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hilena_westb



Joined: 13 Nov 2012
Posts: 130

PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If the school wanted you to give a break, then I'm sure the break would be scheduled. It is pretty standard fair that universities in China provide a 90 minute class; not 2 45 minute classes with a break between. Why not simply follow what you were told/given to do per your schedule. I allow my students to come and go during the class time for bathroom breaks and the like. That should be far more than sufficient. Rolling Eyes
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choudoufu



Joined: 25 May 2010
Posts: 3325
Location: Mao-berry, PRC

PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

hilena_westb wrote:
If the school wanted you to give a break, then I'm sure the break would be scheduled. It is pretty standard fair that universities in China provide a 90 minute class; not 2 45 minute classes with a break between. Why not simply follow what you were told/given to do per your schedule. I allow my students to come and go during the class time for bathroom breaks and the like. That should be far more than sufficient. Rolling Eyes


be honest.......you've never been to china, now have you? pretty cool though,
that you were specifically told to allow your students to wander in and out
willy-nilly.
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